Marcus Berkmann: Enslaved for the next seven weeks

England cricket fans have learned nothing from their past sufferings

Related Topics

And so it begins. Against the unlikely backdrop of downtown Cardiff, the 2009 Ashes series finally kicks off this morning, and England cricket fans will settle back for seven weeks of unrelieved torment.

The heart says we will win. But then the heart is an idiot. The head says that Australia have to be the favourites. But then the head is a pompous know-all who wonders why it has no friends. Far better to listen to the gut, which senses that the series will be painfully close and brutally hard fought, to be celebrated and remembered for all time should we happen to win, and immediately forgotten should we lose.

There is, of course, no escaping it. Several friends of mine who have always refused to take Sky Sports, either on moral grounds or because they occasionally need enough money to eat, have quietly given in and signed up. You can't spend all day every day in the pub, nursing a pint of orange juice and lemonade and a packet of beef'n'onion Hula Hoops.

Millions more of us will be following the series on the internet, on our phones and via the ancient and forgotten medium of radio, whose pictures are said by some to be the best of all. Henry Blofeld has been roused from his cryogenic chamber and is said to be "raring to go".

More foolishly still, we are all looking forward to it. We have learned nothing from our past sufferings. In the glorious aftermath of 2005, we found it easy to forget that it was the only series we had won in 20 years. Australia had won the nine immediately before, and have won the only one since. And they only just lost the one we won. Whereas when we lose, we really lose.

Last time it was 5-0, and some Australian commentators said we were lucky to get nought. History, probability and Ladbrokes are all against us. Only hope, and its embarrassing friend blind optimism, are on our side, with Freddie Flintoff's medical team standing by.

So why bother? Why not just ignore it? The best answer to this is that we would if we could, and many of us have tried. But sport does this to you sometimes. It enslaves you. It starts to feel like a punishment for a crime you didn't know you had committed.

If Kafka had been English, Josef K would have had a seat in the Mound Stand for all five days of the Lord's Test. We haven't beaten Australia there since 1934. One day soon, the last Englishman who fought in the Great War will die, but how many are left who saw Hedley Verity take 7 for 61 and 8 for 43? The last one should have a state funeral. Once no one is alive who remembers it, it might as well not have happened.

The worst thing is the way we pass it on to future generations. As I write this, it is raining and I am notionally in charge of my seven-year-old son downstairs. "OK," I say, "you can watch a DVD. What do you want? Ice Age 2 has to go back tomorrow." He shakes his head. He points at the top shelf, far out of reach, even for me. "Ashes 2005," he says. "Fourth Test at Trent Bridge."

He is looking forward to this series as much as I am, and believes very strongly that Harmison should play at Lord's. Poor little mite. I blame myself, and strangely enough so does his mother.

Marcus Berkmann's 'Ashes to Ashes: 35 Years of Humiliation (And About 20 Minutes of Ecstasy) Watching England v Australia' has just been published by Little, Brown at £16.99

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Hilary Mantel in 2003 - years before she released a short story, in which she fantasised about the death of Margaret Thatcher  

In what universe is Hilary Mantel's imaginary assassination of Margret Thatcher worthy of police investigation?

Matthew Norman
Noddy Holder must be glad he wrote 'Merry Xmas Everybody' as he'll earn £800,000 this year from royalties.  

Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

Rosie Millard
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam